Artifactual materials and documents relating to The Computer Museum in Boston, 1980s-1998
This is a collection of “computing” and books about “computing” before the stored program computer. Gwen Bell began collecting these 200+ books about computation and record keeping in 1976. This was just after the opening of the Digital Museum which was a converted coat closet in the lobby of Building 12 of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in Maynard, MA. The museum was started after Gwen, Ken Olsen, and I decided there should be a classical museum about computer history.
The books cover a wide range from theory to calculated tables, a number of which are in French, German, and Latin. The collection includes very rare books by Galileo, John Napier, Henry Briggs, William Oughtred, and Adriaan Vlacq. Other important volumes include Edmund Gunter's The Description and Use of the Sector (1624); three books by Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, (1864); On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832); and Tables of Logarithms of the Natural Numbers from 1 to 108,000 (1889); and the Hollerith patent specifications (1889). Other highlights are Charles Hutton's book of tables (1781), tables based on the Harvard Mark I, under the direction of Howard Aiken (1949), and a beautiful book on the Jaquet-Droz automata (1979). A few examples of books which address particular applications and disciplines are Hudson’s The Land Valuer’s Assistant (1811); and Blackie and Son, The Agriculturists Calculator (1851). Finally, Jacob Bigelow’s Element of Technology (1829) is a must read, wonderful book that covers everything from heating and ventilation to the science of locomotion!
Bell Book Collection Directory
, listed alphabetically by author.
The Bell Book Collection is housed at The Computer Museum
in Mountain View, California.